Does Your Organization Need a Development Plan?

development plan Feb 23, 2021

Scenario 1:
How many times has a well-meaning board member or volunteer come to one of your board meetings and offered this sage advice—“We should do a (golf tournament, gala dinner dance, art auction, walkathon, etc., etc.) because (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Hospital, etc., etc.) did one and raised $100,000?” Before the meetings ends, the whole board or committee is caught up in “event fever” and has the invitations designed, the flowers ordered, and the T-shirt sponsors listed. And there you are, the new development officer, trying to meet grant deadlines, straighten out the donor database that is a mess, and organize the other events that your organization is currently conducting. So what do you do when the board is bitten by the “event bug?”

Scenario 2:
Another fatal mistake that organizations make is relying solely on a grant writer to raise all the money it needs for programs and operations. Given the fact that foundation grants only account for approximately 12 to 14 percent of all philanthropic giving in the United States, this approach seems equally as foolhardy as depending mainly on events to raise money for the organization. While both grants and events are important parts of a well-rounded development program, they should not be the only methods of fundraising used by nonprofits. So how does one handle these board suggestions, or (in some cases) mandates?

The Answer:
Often boards and volunteers do not realize that events and grant research can be costly, not only in terms of hard costs, but in “opportunity costs.” In other words, what activities must you give up in order to focus your limited time on this proposed new activity? Your first reaction to the board or development committee that suggests either of these approaches should be, “Well, let’s pull out our development plan and see if this event/grant is part of our plan; if not, what other activities must we drop in order to concentrate on this event/grant?” However, many organizations do not have a development plan to reference. If your organization is one of those, this is one good reason why you should have a development plan.

Organizations that have a development plan complete with timelines, areas of responsibility and budgets, will be more successful at keeping the staff, board and volunteers focused on the activities that are most cost effective and produce the best results.

What Should the Development Plan Include?
The plan should include methods for diversifying the organization’s funding streams. Some types of fundraising that are typically included in the plan are:

  • Public relations and awareness building activities, including the organization’s website
  • Direct mail
  • Internet fundraising
  • Telephone fundraising
  • Grants
  • Special events
  • Corporate fundraising
  • Major individual gifts
  • Planned giving

To learn more about how to avoid falling into these traps by having a solid development plan, take my course, Create a Development Plan That Works. Sign up here

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